THE latest phase in the battle of the video game giants will begin in earnest this week with the official UK launch of the new Nintendo console.
Nintendo's Wii (pronounced "Wee") console involves a new design of motion-sensitive controller which executives believe will revolutionise gaming and revive the fortunes of the company which once dominated the market.
Suppliers have admitted that they have already run out of stocks of the new £180 gadget and those who did not pre-order their consoles some weeks ago can expect to be disappointed.
The rush for the new gizmo comes despite buyers being willing to spend up to £1,500 for the latest Sony console on the online auction site eBay. In the past fortnight, no fewer than 20 British consumers have shelled out more than £1,200 for Japanese versions of the new PlayStation 3 console, despite warnings from Sony that their warranties will not be valid on imported machines.
The top bid came out at £1,500 for a buyer who was unwilling to wait until March, when the machine is released in the UK.
This week, all eyes are likely to be on the Nintendo Wii, which features a controller that can be moved around to simulate the likes of a tennis racket, a golf club, a sword or boxing gloves. The computer can track the movements of the controller through the air and represent the actions onscreen.
Analysts believe the alternative to the traditional pressing buttons to represent actions and movement will prove a hit with consumers.
Brian Baglow, chief executive officer of technology and entertainment marketing company Indoctrimat, said: "I think it is going to be very big and very, very popular. The new controller feels great and they really are doing something totally new.
"They are taking computer gaming right out of the world of button-bashing and it'll appeal to people who have never been into gaming. I don't think it will displace the other consoles, though. I reckon the PlayStation 3 is still going to be very big with hardcore gamers."
Online supplier Amazon has already run out of all but pre-ordered stocks, and added that sales would be limited to one per customer to ensure as many as possible could have a Wii console in time for Christmas.
Once the number-one name in video gaming, Nintendo has found itself squeezed in recent years as Sony and Microsoft have sought to dominate the console market.
While the company's GameCube carved out a loyal following because of its innovative games, it only sold 21 million units worldwide, compared with 111 million PlayStation 2s and more than 24 million Xboxes.